In a Nutshell
The Blazers give their fans an early Christmas present by smashing the Bucks--whose offering to their fans is likely to be re-gifted, probably to Minnesota--early and often. LaMarcus Aldridge struts and plays like He-Man while Wesley Matthews plays the role of Battle Cat, leaving the Bucks gobsmacked with seemingly every bucket.
Who needs a game flow when the Bucks can't score? The absence of Brandon Jennings left them bringing a knife to a gun battle. And the knife wasn't loaded. To the Blazers' credit they did exactly what they needed to in order to keep the Bucks from ever seeing light in this game. They defended the paint, forced outside shots, and rebounded like demons. Without easy shots Milwaukee was paralyzed. Meanwhile Portland passed the ball into the lane repeatedly and hit enough open threes to challenge a team that was on, which the Bucks weren't. The Blazers also played the passing lanes. With the offense misfiring so badly every turnover was like a dagger in Milwaukee's heart even though they committed relatively few for the game. Every Portland fast break point was like a sledgehammer to the head and the Blazers got a bunch of those. Portland led by 7 after one, by 24 at the half, slipped a little in the third--letting Milwaukee get 6 back even though they scored only 25 in the period--but then cruised away in the fourth for the 106-80 shellacking.
Anyone who doesn't think continuity matters in basketball should have watched this game. The Blazers once again evidenced slippage when the second unit came in the game. An offense that was running on all cylinders all of a sudden couldn't turn over. That's metaphorically, of course. They actually did turn over the ball in a literal sense. The current first-unit players have enough passing skills, court vision, and leadership to connect with each other despite being relatively new playing together. The second unit is completely hit and miss. Mostly miss, especially early in the game.
Milwaukee was even a greater example. They didn't just lose their leading scorer when Jennings went down, they lost all pretense to a coherent offense.
No matter how we talk about players sometimes, this is not a video game. Guys aren't automatically interchangeable no matter what their talents.
LaMarcus Aldridge owned the lane tonight: cutting, dunking, rebounding, and sneering like a boss. Check out the dippity-dope line: 12-18 shooting, 29 points, 19 rebounds, 2 blocks, 2 steals, 2 assists. This may be THE most dominant game I've ever seen him play, even out of some of his nights in Texas. He knew it too. Way to go, sir!
Wesley Matthews just killed the Bucks early, shooting lightning quick and hitting everything he tossed up. It's so sweet to see some old-school ball where a guy doesn't have to dribble 13 times to score. He manufactures points like the Whos manufactured Christmas no matter what. His knowledge and use of space is refreshing, as is his teammates' willingness to get the ball to him when he's open. 6-12 shots, 7-8 free throws, 22 points, and 6 rebounds. I'll reiterate something I said the other night: having him fill up more than just the points line makes him much more valuable. I'd love to see this continue against good teams.
Andre Miller had 9 assists in 30 minutes and was the man behind the throne for the previous two players. The Blazers suffer, even if only by comparison with themselves, when he's not in there.
Nicolas Batum had an up and down night. He was active looking for his shot early and certainly helped keep the Bucks from sniffing makable shots. He shot 3-8 with 4 rebounds and 3 assists in 32 minutes. But he ended up with only 10 points on a night points were there to be had and he also committed 3 turnovers.
Dante Cunningham, though starting, rolled his ankle and played but 4 minutes. He's got days off ahead so hopefully it's OK.
Rudy Fernandez started cold but warmed up to the tune of 7-14 shooting for 17 points with 7 assists. Once he figured out the Bucks were more or less going to quit the game became easy for him. Easy = good for Rudy. He looked nice.
Sean Marks played the next most minutes off the bench with 24. He took his shot most of the time it was there but hit only 2 of 7. He had 5 rebounds and 2 nice blocks. He kept the team going just fine.
Patty Mills also had an up and down night. He looks good when he can make a nifty pass or hit a three. When the requirements get more complex, particularly as the game gets slower, his performance suffers. But his night was mostly good with 8 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, and 2 turnovers in 18 minutes.
Luke Babbitt has that charming look of a rookie running really hard to get to the positions he knows he's supposed to be in. You can see the wheels turning in his head. "I am supposed to get from Point A to Point B on this play. Go! Whew! I made it to Point B!" The connection with the actual game going on around him isn't really solid during this process. He started his time looking almost rigid but loosened up as the game progressed. I think it's fair to say the game is still controlling him a little instead of him controlling the game. But he did have a couple of break-out moments, scoring 6 on 3-6 shooting with 2 assists. (Assists are good signs that you've connected with what's going on around you, eh?)
Armon Johnson played 3 minutes and committed a foul.
Stats of the Night
- Blazers shoot 50%, Bucks 38%
- The Blazers equaled the Bucks on the defensive boards by percentage...no mean feat considering the Bucks are strong in that category.
- The Blazers obliterated the Bucks by percentage on the offensive glass to win the rebounding battle handily.
- Portland 13 fast break points, Milwaukee 4
- Blazers 27 assists, Bucks 13
Odd Notes and Links
Boxscore for you to print and frame.
Finally somebody else gets the chance to write the depressing post-game report at Brewhoop. Again, that's another great blog that you should be interested in reading as an NBA fan. I'd bookmark it and get some wisdom.
You can see the Jersey Contest scoreboard here and enter the Christmas Day game against the Warriors here.